Proverbs: Primer for Princes (6)

Life Choices

Life involves a multitude of choices! Daily we are confronted by a variety of issues – some trivial, some far-reaching – that require our attention and provoke a response. Ultimately, the secret to life’s success is found in our choices. As one writer succinctly put it, “Many people can climb the ladder of success only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall!” For a Christian, such a discovery is tragic. It is possible to have a “saved soul” but a “wasted life.” Our values and decisions are the “vehicles” that will carry us to far-reaching destinies, and so the Proverbs focus for us the overwhelming truths of “Life Choices.”


A major concern in Proverbs and a critical element in choices involve the “Spiritual CC Unit” – and the problem of spiritual heart disease. Solomon’s concern in Proverbs is not the physical but the very core and center of man’s being known in Scripture as the “heart.” Proverbs 4:23 is one of the great pivotal verses of the book. “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” In Biblical terms, the “heart” represents our whole inner being. It not only includes the feelings, affections, and desires but also the aims, the will, the thoughts, and the intellect.

The first time that the “heart” is mentioned is Proverbs 2:2: “Incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding.” We are exhorted to “write them (i.e. the commandments) upon the table of our heart (3:3). Solomon urges the reader to “trust in the Lord with all thine heart” and reminds us that character is molded by our thoughts – “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (23:7). It’s from the heart that choices are made: to either despise reproof (5:12) or to respond to the advances of a sensual woman (“lust not after her beauty in thine heart,” 6:25). How important is “the heart” in Proverbs? All but four chapters give us a further dimension of it. Thus, it’s no wonder that Solomon’s exhortation was paramount. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life” (4:23, NIV)


Proverbs repeatedly brings us to the crossroads and asks us, “Which way will you go?” and ultimately, “Is your choice one of wisdom or folly?” The key to wisdom is one of the major themes of Proverbs. As Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding” (Prov 9:10). Despite our vaunted intellect and aspirations, true wisdom for every aspect of life comes only by a knowledge of God and by a living relationship with Him. This is more than just a “healthy respect” for the Almighty. We can actually enjoy His presence and revel in His guiding provision. But it does involve a choice on our part! The parameters are clear. Either we can navigate our own vehicle on our self-chosen course or we can “turn the keys over” to the Lord. The wisest choice is obvious. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths” (3:5-6). Even with careful planning and skillful advice, our horizontal reasoning is limited and inadequate, but “the counsel of the Lord … shall stand” (19:21). There is no higher pursuit in life – and Proverbs gives us the absolute assurance of its value and reward. “Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (2:5).


Sadly, not everyone purses the knowledge of God, and so counsel and counsellors fill the pages of Proverbs. A father exhorts his son concerning bad companions with their corrupting influence. “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (1:10). He earnestly warns about the seductions of a “strange woman” and the tragic fallout of moral sin (5:1-20; 6:20-29). “Lady Wisdom” draws alongside of the traveler, pleading for a response to her words (1:20-23). She cries to the “simple” or the naive, to the “scorner” or the skeptic, and to the “fool” who chooses to live and act with wrong reasoning. She longs that they might “turn at her reproof… that she might make her words known to them” (1:22-23) and that pitfalls might be avoided. Reproof is seldom easy to take and chastening is even more difficult, but in the process of correction character is molded, attitudes and actions are altered, and tragic results are averted. A wise person does learn from his own mistakes but a wiser person learns from the counsel of others. So . . . what happens when reproof comes your way? Do you become defensive or indifferent or even bitter, or do you seek to learn the lessons that God has in mind?


Proverbs is saturated with “life choices.” The Spirit’s work throughout the ages has always been to establish righteousness in a world that is so “out-of-step” with the character of the God of heaven. Sin has both marred and marked us but God’s great purpose is to put “godliness into working clothes” and so the book is filled with a multitude of important truths and questions. The realities probe every facet of our existence – whether it’s “Currency Calculations” and money matters or “Communication Challenges” and the power of our words or “Character Changes” and our relationships. They are all designed to bring us into conformity to our God, that He might be glorified and that we might be blessed. Regardless of what aspect of life is being presented, the pleas and the rewarding promises of Proverbs 4:5-8 are in view.

“Get wisdom … get understanding … forsake her not … she shall preserve thee, love her … she shall keep thee, exalt her … she shall promote thee. She shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.”

Is such a life worthy of our pursuit? Is such a God worthy of our devotion? Each of us must decide – and so it is your choice!